Fat Tony may not have studied much cops and robbers
history at Moreland High but the Kooka Bros have
devoted many hours to the worthy cause of documenting true crime. And one of our
favourite “getaway” men was Ronnie Biggs, the Great Train Robber. Sadly for Ronnie, he is presently doing time in a
British prison but he has spent much of his life happily on the run.

Biggs and a bunch of other East
End ne’er-do-wells were arrested in 1963 for nicking 2.6 million
pounds from a mail train. After he was convicted (they did not give him bail), he
escaped from Wandsworth prison in 1965 by scaling the wall with a rope ladder,
got papers and a new face in Paris and fled to Australia and then Brazil in
1970.

How did he do it? Crime Library explains:

Biggs and
Flower were hidden in various parts of the country for several months before
being smuggled across the English Channel
to Antwerp in
Belgium where,
in exchange for a large amount of money they were given new passports, clothes
and facial reconstruction to mask their appearance. The latter, described by
Biggs in Odd Man Out as, “so
painful that I didn’t think I would survive it.”

By
Christmas Biggs had healed from his surgery and was on his way to
Sydney,
Australia, travelling under the name Terrence Furminger. He would later reunite with his family and Eric
Flower and spend several years hiding out and adapting to their new
surroundings.

When Biggs was sprung in Melbourne by journalist Jack Darmody from
Newsday he went into hiding in the Dandenongs. Then, “with the aid of
friends, Biggs was able to stay out of sight for a few months but when
news was received that police suspected where he was hiding, he scraped
together some money and a borrowed passport and booked passage to
Panama on the SS Ellinis which departed on February 5, 1970.
Once in Panama he booked a flight to Rio de Janeiro via Caracas,
Venezuela.”

He landed
in Rio on March 11, 1970 as “Michael Haynes” and settled into a
cheap, waterfront hotel. After three decades as a celebrity crook in
Rio, The Sun
newspaper flew him home to
London in 2001 to complete his
28-year sentence.

But the
escapee drug baron most like Fat Tony Mokbel is “Aussie Bob” Trimbole who scarpered in 1981 after a tip-off from
bent NSW cops about his pending arrest for conspiracy to murder
Griffith anti-drugs
campaigner Donald Mackay. Two days later Trimbole was
out of the country having foiled customs checks by changing his birth date on a
departure card. He boarded a flight to the United
States, then to
France and
finally to
Ireland.

A month
later, Trimbole was arrested in Ireland and held in
custody awaiting extradition but, aided by a battery of high priced lawyers, managed to avoid extradition after the Irish
Government refused to extradite him to Australia and he was
released.

Robert Trimbole eventually escaped to
Spain
and died in a country villa in May 1987, while still in hiding. He was 56. The
Sydney Morning Herald
reported
the news of his death noting that he had spent his last days hiding in an area
well known for “harbouring criminals and laundering
money.”

In the words of the
popular song: Poor Ned Kelly, it’s
easier to do today/Poor Ned Kelly, you don’t even have to run
away. In these days of
e-passports and global electronic surveillance, Fat Tony is not going to find
the going easy out there in the cold. Eh, Osama bin
Laden anyone…

Peter Fray

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